Veterans and heroes: the militarised male elite in Timor-Leste

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The contemporary roles and relations of men in the nation of Timor-Leste (East Timor) are explored in this article, focusing on the construction of a hegemonic militarised masculinity in the post-conflict period. This construct is a cornerstone of contemporary society established during the twenty-four-year resistance to Indonesian occupation (1975–99) and the establishment of the new nation in 2002. Unsurprisingly, this society affords superior relations of power and privilege to the veterans and heroes who fought and suffered as part of the nationalist armed struggle for independence. This privileged, essentially male elite now reproduce relations of power that dominate less powerful men, women, and their respective concerns in the new state. While the most obvious negative impact of this social structure is the conflict between the male elites that led to violent conflict in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2015, the development implications include growing inequality in the new society. Living with rigid gender roles and expectations causes health and psychological problems for many Timorese across the gender spectrum. Local programs exist to combat these challenges but the women’s movement and its allies require much more assistance and solidarity to effectively challenge the status quo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-139
Number of pages23
JournalThe Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2020


  • Gender Relations
  • Masculinity
  • Militarisation
  • Political Leadership
  • Timor-Leste

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